Dr. Maxine Thompson

“Are you Homeless?”

“Are you homeless?” the woman with bald spots over her ears and a thunder cloud of natural hair, asked me.

I was standing in Jack In The Box in Inglewood. I looked down at my outfit. I did look a mess—a comfortable mess though. I had on my worn-looking gym shoes, tights, a somewhat faded but clean African print dress, topped by my freeform dreadlocks, which were thick, but a little fuzzy looking.

I should be embarrassed that I was mistaken for the homeless, but when I write, I get in the zone and become invisible to myself and to my characters whom I’m observing. I am vulnerable when I write, but I am happy as a hummingbird.

I had been on a writing binge at McDonald’s and was experiencing the afterglow that only writers can understand.

“No,” I replied. “Why do you ask? Do I look that bad?” I laughed out loud. I am blessed in that I have a roof over my head, but it’s funny how I can look “throwed away” (my late mother’s old expression) when I’m writing.

“No. You look fine. It’s just you are rolling a suitcase.”

I looked down at my laptop bag. “No, this is a laptop.”

I thought of all the women I see with suitcases walking around LA and Inglewood.

Many are homeless. They sleep in Starbucks and McDonald’s. They sleep on the sidewalks, in homeless camps, and in shelters. They wash up in the public restrooms.

In talking to the woman, I found out she was homeless and looking for food. She gave me the address of a homeless shelter which was helping her. I kept it to hand out to people. (I am still a social worker at heart.) The woman also admitted she had been clean from cocaine for two days. I had a few single dollars on me, so I gave her something. “Buy you something to eat,” I admonished.

I’ve blogged about the homeless before and given statistics.

Today, 1-28-18, in the Sunday Los Angeles Times, there is a new series called “Without a Home” about this ceaseless crisis.

According to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, in 2016, the county’s homeless number rose to 47,00, with 28,000 in the city alone. “This could be the year that we bring the numbers down.”

Can and could. But didn’t, so the newspaper says.

So, what can we do as citizens? There have been millions of dollars and endless political promises about homelessness, but the situation is getting worse. Can you rent out a house and give rooms to the homeless? I believe there is city money available to help to this end.

Just thinking out loud.